Ain't that a kicker

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- It was an fitting way to end an ugly and frustrating first half of the season for the Edmonton Eskimos.

On the final play of the game with a shot to win and ride an incredible wave of confidence into the second half of the season, holder Jason Johnson watched a perfect snap from Mike Maurer slip right through his hands, giving Sean Fleming no shot to attempt a 39-yard field goal.

It left the Eskimos and 33,589 spectators at B.C. Place completely stunned, but more importantly for the Green and Gold, it pushed them farther into the West Division basement at 3-6.

The Lions escaped with a 30-28 win, leaving the Eskimos eight points out of first place.

With so many underachieving teams in the bottom half of the wild and wacky CFL, it would be foolish to write off the playoff hopes of the woeful Esks.

But this could be the game at the end of the season that comes back to haunt the defending Grey Cup champions.

They could be as many as six points behind Calgary when they return to the field in 17 days for the Labour Day classic.

However, pinning the entire costly loss last night on Johnson's shoulders would be unfair.

Once again Edmonton was victimized by big plays on the secondary, mental breakdowns and an inconsistent offence, spoiling a nine-sack effort by the D-line.

Fortunately for the secondary they get an 11-day break thanks to the upcoming bye week, meaning they won't have to see the game film from last night for quite some time.

And Ricky Ray won't want to see the film either, after throwing two costly picks - both leading to easy touchdowns.

The first-half story, though, was Geroy Simon. It didn't seem to matter who covered him or where he roamed on the field.

After Edmonton opened the scoring with a rare first-quarter touchdown (a two-yard run by Troy Davis) that was set-up by an even more surprising 52-yard long bomb to Ed Hervey, Buck Pierce answered with his own home-run ball - a 37-yard strike to Simon, leaving Malcom Frank in the dust.

But Simon - with a game-high 119 receiving yards - and Pierce, didn't have to carry the entire load, as constant pressure on Ray finally produced a costly turnover.

Dodging a seemingly sure sack by Nautyn McKay-Loescher, Ray tried to connect with Hervey over the middle late in the first half, but instead hit Korey Banks perfectly in stride and he cruised home for an 18-yard TD.

The Esks showed some life in the third quarter, capitalizing on a Jonte Buhl-caused fumble from Joe Smith.

Davis bulled his way into the end zone on a five-yard run, dragging the Esks to within striking distance at 23-18.

But then the Ray threw his second costly interception, watching the ball get tipped by linebacker Javier Glatt and then fall into the hands of Barron Miles, who sprinted 33 yards to pay dirt.

Edmonton made it close with a 16-yard touchdown to Jason Tucker, who somewhat atoned for three dropped balls earlier in the game, and clawed to within two Fleming's field goal with 1:56 left. But then disbelief set in with Johnson's stunning blunder.


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